Requiem for Rogan 14-02-53 — 21-01-21
|Writer Johnny Rogan passed away in January 2021 at the age |
of 67. Apart from writing the definitive history
of the Byrds, he also published books on John Lennon,
Van Morrison, Ray Davies/The Kinks,
Neil Young, and the Smiths.
Thoughts & Words
Get to You
Stranger in a Strange Land
What I did not tell Johnny is that ‘Kathleen’ has always been a special song for me; it looms large in my personal mythology. Discovering it was like finding The Great Lost Gene Clark Song I always dreamed I’d find. Suffice it to say, no one else seemed to hear the otherworldly beauty I found there, but that didn’t stop me from counting it among Gene’s finest. I never had the feeling that I had made any kind of impact with that post, until Rogan mentioned it. He understood me. And I felt validated by his reaction.
Yes, it’s only a footnote but it means a great deal to me.
Everybody’s Been Burned
I think it’s fair to say I wanted him to be my friend, and it’s a peculiar quirk of my personality that I continued to hope that I might win him over. Because of this, a curious pattern developed: any time I began to feel as though a deep friendship might be in the offing, the tone of his next reply would quickly disabuse me of that notion, and I would be taken to task about some minor issue that had apparently set him off. He became haughty and professorial, addressing me in a formal, terse manner, as though I were an underling. Condescension, however, is the one thing that sets me off. His words were always so cleverly phrased, however, that I couldn’t always be sure. Was I being too sensitive again? (the answer was invariably yes). More than once I said out loud, “Fuck you, asshole,” after reading his messages, although I now chuckle at the memory. His tone was authoritative, occasionally imperious and hurtful, but again: his position was always clear.
On one occasion, he seemed exasperated with me after having learned of my involvement (a few years before) in what turned out to be a dubious Byrds-related project. I tried to play it down, but in truth I felt incredible shame at that moment: he’d found a bona fide skeleton in my closet, and I was embarrassed to have it thrown in my face. And as embarrassing as it was, he was absolutely right. His reproach stung, of course, but I’m quite certain I’ll never make the same mistake again.
But it was our bonding over the unheralded excellence of Gene’s long-form epics/mystical works of the ‘80s that I’ll cherish the most. Of course I’m speaking of songs like ‘Communications’ ‘Pledge to You’ ‘Your Fire Burning’ ‘Freedom Walk’ ‘My Marie’ ‘Dark of My Moon’ and others. This aspect of Gene’s work is given the short shrift—eclipsed, I think, by the officially released works from the period, the lingering stigma of the 20th Anniversary Byrds tours, and the overdue celebration of No Other as an overlooked, one-of-a-kind classic. At first he wasn’t having it, and would say that for every ‘Communications’ there were quite a few lesser tracks: overtly commercial songs, remakes, or other fruitless pursuits. Gradually, however, we came to agree that Gene’s ‘80s writing was compartmentalized, often dictated by situations and happenstance: if he had time, he composed on his own with his Tascam recorder (Gypsy Angel); if he was trying to be commercial, he would record covers or less idiosyncratic, more conventional originals (e.g. the 1990 recordings with John Arrias; the Silvery Moon stuff with Pat Robinson and John York).
This is GC at this most creative in my view; he's actually composing the song in front of our ears and it's an epic, in every sense. I find it difficult to believe that it ends here with this rehearsal/practice as it's such a potentially important work. I can tell you that I've seen the lyrics of the song in Gene's hand. On the tape box it reads, 'Have You Seen The Faces Of The Dreamers In The Rain', but on the lyric sheet Gene has already precised the title to 'Dreamers In The Storm', even though it's 'rain' not 'storm' in the lyrics/recording. I can only speculate, but the fact that we have the full lyrics extant at least suggests there are additional attempts on cassette although, alas, no evidence at all that he ever attempted the song in a studio.
— Johnny Rogan, January 14, 2019
In the summer of 2017, I was making my way through RftT2, forcing myself to read it slowly, at a leisurely pace, to make it last (Note: at this point, I’d never even heard the title ‘Have You Seen the Faces of The Dreamers in the Rain?’).
After reading the passage devoted to ‘Echoes,’ I was so impressed with Rogan’s take on it that I sent him an email to tell him so. That’s what Rogan’s writing did: it made me excited about Gene’s work. I was inspired by his words. He motivated me.
In typical fashion, Rogan ignored the compliment altogether, and stated he was glad I was taking my time to read it slowly. And then, out of nowhere, in a paragraph unto itself, he said the following:
I was thinking of you when I wrote about ‘Have You Seen The Faces Of The Dreamers In The Rain?’